Google scheduled a media event for Oct. 4 where it will likely take the wraps off its latest Android phones. The company's event announcement – a cryptic video published on Google's YouTube page – gave utterly no details besides the date -- but the rumor and leak circuit has already unveiled a decent amount about the upcoming flagships.
Based on a number of published reports about the forthcoming device, the most obvious change is that Google appears to be dropping the Nexus brand in favor of the newer Pixel brand. What made the Nexus unique, however – the absence of unnecessary “Android bloatware” from manufacturers or carriers – is expected to remain the same.
“The goal was to provide a pure Android experience, and to an extent, disintermediating the carriers from the experience,” said Avi Greengart, research director of consumer devices for Current Analysis, in an interview with FierceWireless.
HTC will reportedly be manufacturing both handsets – the Pixel and the Pixel XL – another change from previous years when Google picked a different manufacturer for each flagship version. HTC's exclusive production of the devices could allow HTC to expand its market presence after years of suffering from Apple and Samsung competition.
“HTC is a beleaguered smartphone manufacturer at this point and it can really use all the volume it can get,” Greengart said. “HTC, as much as they would like to point out their beautiful designs, and their designs are beautiful, that they also have high-end specs, and they are high end, consumers haven't seen enough to differentiate and pick something that's not as heavily advertised. You know, Apple and Samsung put a tremendous amount of money into marketing."
The rumors also indicated a potential pitfall for HTC: The manufacturer, despite generally lauded designs, has been criticized for repetitive design in the past, and it looks like those criticisms will be following the Pixel as well. Some observers noted that the front of the phone, as indicated by leaked images, recycles the design of the HTC 10.
The software side of Google's rumored devices likely won't yield anything too revolutionary, as the latest version of Android, dubbed Nougat, already launched back in March. Still, there are some indications that the OS will have functions specific to the phone, such as unique swiping gestures on the fingerprint reader and a tweaked launcher.
Google's new Pixel Launcher. pic.twitter.com/g974gVOKzT— LlabTooFeR (@LlabTooFeR) September 12, 2016
For Greengart, one of the biggest remaining questions is whether Google's new phones will be able to support its Daydream VR product right out of the box. Daydream made a big splash at Google's I/O conference in March, but the company has been pretty mum about the offering since.
If the phones do have Daydream support, that may indicate a change in one of Nexus' long-running themes: The notion that buying the phone is separate from the carrier. Greengart said the Daydream is the kind of thing carriers love to bundle with a phone.
“If these phones are the gateway to Daydream – and Daydream is something carriers should be interested in offering directly – then maybe we will see carriers offering the phone directly. It wouldn't be unprecedented,” he said.
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